Friday, October 09, 2009

My last examination

Today I told my fellow educators for the course COMP3410 at the Australian National University that this was my last examination. What I did not expand on was that this was not just for this course, I will not set any examination questions for any course. My hope is to able to continue to contribute to courses at ANU and elsewhere, and to design assessment for them, but do not ask me to write examination questions.

Last year I decided to give My Last Lecture and put into practice what I have been learning about combining online teaching and live group work. This was not an easy decision and has taken considerable work, both in reformulating course material and explaining the change to my colleagues.

My first ANU course with no lectures and no examinations finishes in a few weeks time and so far has gone reasonably well. Reformulating the material did take some work. What surprised me was the amount of explanation I had to do to colleagues. Many had difficulty with the idea of a course with no lectures. Even after I had announced that I would not be giving any more lectures there were many who asked me to give lectures. It took some time to reassure them that there were workable alternatives to lectures and this was permitted under university rules.

What I found surprising was that the formal university processes had no problems with a course with no lectures or examinations. Provided what was being taught and how it was being assessed was clearly spelt out, there was no impediment to a course without lectures or examinations.

The group who did not need any convincing were the students, who were very happy with the idea of no lectures. Some students seemed to think no lectures meant no work and an easy course, but soon changed their view when they saw there was compulsory assessed tutorial work each week. Some dropped out early, but not as many as for a conventional course.

I don't like setting examinations to be conducted on paper, over several hours, without the student being able to use external resources. This is not an effective form of assessment, nor is it useful for learning.

An examination is very different to the ways the students could expect to use what they are learning the real world. What is more realistic is have them briefly reply to a few short questions, discuss issues in a group and to write reports over days or weeks, with a library and the Internet at their disposal. That is the form of assessment I have used in the Green ICT course, with assessment for weekly discussion and written assignments.

There is a role for tests in courses and this can be by interactive assessment. These can be used to asses the student's level of knowledge to help with the learning as well as to give them a final grade. But the assessment should be a realistic facsimile of what happens in the real world. Assessment can use simulations and other techniques for being more realistic. Tests can be online and in part multiple choice. There can be many short tests, rather than a few large ones. I hope to explore this next year.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Last Lecture

Last Tuesday I told the COMP3410 students at the Australian National University that this was my last lecture. What I did not expand on was that this was not just the last one for my series in this course this semester, but I did not intend to give any more lectures at ANU, or anywhere else. It was time I put into practice what I have been learning about blended learning: combining online teaching and live group work.

I don't like giving lectures to groups of eighty or so students. It is very hard to get any feedback. In some lecture theatres difficult to see the students and in some of the old steeply tiered ones I get a a sense of vertigo: looking up from what feels like the bottom of a well.

I never liked attending lectures and thought them not an efficient way to learn. When I arrived at ANU as a visitor I fell into the lecturing role almost by accident, being invited to give one or two and then blocks of six.
For several years I have thought that it should be possible to teach at tertiary level using online systems. The Australian Computer Society (ACS) runs its Computer Professional Education Program as a purely online, postgraduate education course. As Director of Professional Development Board at the ACS, I learnt a lot about the process from David Lindley, who carefully structured the ACS program; see his: "Computer Professional Education using Mentored and Collaborative Online Learning" (in IJCIM special issues on e-learning, Vol.15 No. SP4, November, 2007). However, ANU is an elite, research lead organisation and it was not clear if a completely online course using such techniques would fit in.

Last June I attended a seminar on the MIT iCampus, which indicated that a blended approach to learning would be acceptable and effective at a respected university. The blended approach avoids purely online distance education. Part of the course is online using a course management system, but other parts are in a classroom with lecturers, mini lectures, demonstrations, group discussion, group and individual work. I then went on a year's investigation into , , and .

In the middle of this I was asked to run a short course on "Writing for the Web" for a local council. To do this I set up a Moodle course management system and loaded it with a cut down version of the content I had prepared for ANU courses. The council staff set up an electronic classroom and I presented the course live in the room using the Moodle system.

The small group computer assisted approach worked so well that when I was asked to prepare a short course on e-documents at ANU for public servants I used the same technique. This also worked well and I have been asked to give further such courses, but I had the uncomfortable feeling this was not a "proper" university course.

I was encouraged to submit the short course for approval as a formal unit of the Unviersity. This was rejected, not because of the teaching method, but because it was too short and did not have enough content to be a useful size to fit into regular programs.

The pragmatic approach to making the short course longer was to add homework (the short course had been entirely in the classroom). Adding 50% of material the student does remotely online would bring the course up to the required size. This would also turn it into a true blended course.

In the interim the ANU attitude to such courses had changed. The university officially enthusiastically supports them, with funding and staff support for their development. The ANU College of Law offers a Graduate Certificate in Australian Migration Law & Practice using distance education (online) and "intensive" (blended) modes and is approved by the Australian Government. Traditional academics are grudgingly starting to accept there is a role for such techniques. However, what remains are the challenges of the mechanics of having the infrastructure to support the courses, such as speciality equipped classrooms and extensive online systems and how to apply this to advanced courses.

The remaining challenge is how to apply blended techniques to research based learning. With typical vocational online courses one group of people prepare the course and then another deliver it to a large number of students over an extended period. The courses have a very rigid structure and fixed content. This is a very good business model for educational institutions, as they can get the maximum return on the investment in the courseware delivered to a large number of students over a long time.

But research lead education requires new research results to be incorporated in courses quickly. This requires frequent changes to the content and also requires staff who understand the research to help the students. That is a difficult and expensive process. The ACS partly gets around this problem by using open assignment questions in its postgraduate courses: the students themselves conduct the research, looking into the latest findings in ICT. In a way the staff are just there as coaches, to help the students along with the process, without necessarily understanding the details of what the students find. This is the essence of how research is done at universities (I have learnt a lot from the students doing research projects I have supervised). However, more guidance will be needed for the average undergraduate student.

So much for the theory: time to get on and do it. What I am to do is adapt the material I previously prepared for traditional lectures so it can be delivered in a blended mode: short lectures, workshops and tutorials. Ideally the same content can then be used as part of a traditional course, in place of my previous lectures, as short courses in the normal university semester and as short intensive courses.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Computer based Communications Training

The Royal New Zealand Navy have issued a Registration of Interest for a "Computer based Communications Training System" to teach New Zealand Defence personnel in the use of the Australian developed COMPUCAT Message Exchange (CMX) system and similar. This type of training uses something like a flight simulator, duplicating some of the controls and functions of the equipment. In the past such systems have been custom programmed from the ground up. However, it should now be possible to combine an off-the-shelf Course Management System (CMS), with software for simulating equipment control panels and some multimedia software to produce a lower cost more flexible system:
... The Royal New Zealand Navy is seeking to replace its current computer based training system for communications personnel.

The current system is obsolete and unsupportable with respect to technology and does not now provide the level of instruction necessary to place competently trained communications personnel into the fleet.

The existing computer based training tool, known as the Fleetwork Trainer (FWT), is a 13 station (12 students, one supervisor) networked computer based training system. Personnel are trained, up to senior enlisted personnel level, on tactical communications to enable them to undertake duties within the fleet.

The system also provides training to students on New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) applications such as COMPUCAT Message Exchange (CMX), Signal Distribution System (SDS), Joint Remote Control system (JRCS) as well as the Advanced Standalone Area Prediction system (ASAPs).

The current FWT utilises visual and aural training processes for the Communications trade.

The current facility is ten years old incorporating equipment that is in the region of 15 years old.

The RNZN Fleet Personnel and Training Organisation (FPTO) requires an integrated computer based training solution capable of conducting training in the following communications disciplines:

(1) Voice communications from any operator position;
(2) Voice recording facility;
(3) Emulation and simulation of cryptographic voice equipment;
(4) Interference to simulate HF voice conditions;
(5) Simulation of cipher voice circuits;
(6) Control from one central position;
(7) Fleet work scenarios to be conducted collectively and individually by students;
(8) Visual demonstration of resultant formations;
(9) Flashing light and flag hoist training scenarios within the fleet work mode;
(10) Playback and PowerPoint capability for debriefing purposes; and
(11) Morse key training.

A new Fleet Work Trainer will allow the consolidation of training resources while assisting the Communications trade, and the RNZN, to keep currency with modern communications practises. It will also provide for flexibility for future initiatives.


Relates to the following TenderWatch Categories
841 Project management relating to IT service and delivery
842 Software implementation services
846 Web development services
848 Computer training services
849 Other computer services ...

From: "Computer based Communications Training System" , GETS Reference: 21522, Registration of Interest, Royal New Zealand Navy, 2008

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Learning Management System for Government

IP Australia, the Australia Government office responsible for Patents, Trade Marks, Designs, and Plant Breeder's Rights has issued a request for tender for a Learning Management System. This is combines the functions of course scheduling and tracking people's training with that of online course delivery. This does not sound like a good idea to me.

Keeping track of what courses people do and delivering courses to them are two very different functions. The former can be handled in a human resources system and the later in a Course Management System (CMS). IP Australia could start by looking the Australian developed free open source Moodle CMS for the latter function.
IP Australia has identified the need for a new Learning and Management System (LMS) and is inviting Expressions of Interest. In consultation with the various business lines with IP Australia, a set of high level functional and non-functional requirements have been identified for an organisation-wide Learning Management System. The requirements have been developed to meet the needs of the business processes of each business area, and in response to the issues identified for each of those processes.

Functional requirements for the Learning Management System have been categorised under the top level headings: Administration, Employee Self Service, Reporting and Online Learning.

Non-functional requirements of the Learning Management System include: Security, Audit Trail, Performance, Capacity, User Interface and System Integration.

From: Learning Management System, ATM ID IPAC2008/11000, IP Australia, 10-Apr-2008

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Friday, October 12, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 9 - Units

In Part 8 I looked at how to repackage traditional lectures, tutorials and labs for flexible learning. Now I am thinking about what are the 12 units for Electronic Document Management. What I have to start with are six one hour lectures, two one hour tutorial/labs and several assignment questions. In fact the lecture notes do not divide up neatly into the six notional lecture slots, but are in eight units:
  1. Introduction
  2. Metadata
  3. Standards for eCommerce
  4. E-commerce Examples
  5. Electronic Document Management
  6. Digital Library
  7. Publishing
  8. Future Use
In addition, the National Archives of Australia recently changed their web site, with a simplified description of records management, similar to the style introduced by AGIMO with their Web Publishing Guide. With this approach there is a short web page with a few key points in non-technical direct language.
Records management
The reader is then directed to the detailed technical guides. These guides appear to have been changed from the previous HTML versions to PDF and Microsoft Word documents, which is unfortunate. The HTML documents were easy to read and refer to online. The PDF and DOC versions are a step backwards to a much harder to read and use format.

This change happened just as I was preparing to present the material to ANU students. As a stopgap measure I changed links in the notes to refer to an archived version of the material at the Internet Archive. But I now need to redo all the links to the new version. It is not clear how I am going to point to material which is now somewhere in the middle of hundreds of pages of PDF.

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How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 8 - Lectures?

In Part 7 I looked at how provide course notes in a web friendly fashion. Now I am thinking about how to take the one hour lectures and make them into smaller units suitable for small group teaching. The approach at the MIT TEAL flexible learning center has been to use "... 20-minute lectures interspersed with discussion questions, visualizations, and pencil-and-paper exercises ...". This agrees with advice from Flinders University which suggests changing the pace, medium, or importance of the material every fifteen minutes.

The course is 12 hours in total spread over 3 days with 4 teaching hours per day, with 6 hours of lectures, 2 hours of practical classes, 2 hours of tutorials and 2 hours of assessment exercises. So I started to divide this up into units of 15, 20 or 30 minute units. The idea being each unit would be self contained and of the same length. However, this would result in a very large number of units:, if 20 minute units were used:
  • 18 lecture units (6 per day)
  • 6 Practical sessions (2 per day)
  • 6 tutorials
  • 6 assessment exercises
That would make for a timetabling nightmare. My experience of short course plans is has been from courses for local government staff and museum staff in Samoa is that an overly complex plan does not survive more than the first few minutes. Also it would be useful if the units of instruction would fit into the usual university format.

The MIT Teal material is divided into one or two hour blocks, made up of the 20-minute lectures, discussion, exercises and assessment. I was disappointed not to find any guidelines for the instructors on how to prepare and deliver a block, but I did find some criticisms from students of the early versions of the TEAL delivery. From this it would seem to make sense to structure the content more like traditional delivery.. The ANU uses one hour units of instruction, so it would make sense to use either one or two hour blocks, with the content of mini lectures, tutorials and labs. This also makes the timetabling easier.

So now I plan 12 one hour units, each with a 20 minute lecture, plus a discussion/tutorial, practical session, and/or assessment exercise. This format differs from that being used by Peter Christen for his Data Mining and Matching module. That has Six lecture sessions and four practical sessions. This is a more traditional format, also with a change of venue between a small presentation room and computer lab.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Interactive e-Assesment

The e-Assessment Handbook By Geoffrey CrispProfessor Geoffrey Crisp, Director of the Centre for Learning and Professional Development and Professional Development and Director of Online Education at the University of Adelaide, presented a seminar on "Assesment: more than just multiple-choice" at ANU's CEDAM center in Canberra today. He showed a simple way to implement computer assisted assessment using existing tools, supported by research. I have been doing some of this with Moodle for commercial courses, but did not consider to be academically respectable. Now I know it is okay, I can use it for university courses. ;-)

Geoff started with an image from a medieval painting of a lecture in a monastery. He pointed out that apart from the lack of women, much of the way a lecture was presented then is much the same as now. The lecturer was at a podium at the front of the room, the students were in rows, some listening, some reading, some talking.

Geoff went through the types and purposes of assessment (it is not just because you need to pass). One use is to see what the students already know. "Clickers" can be used to get a quick assessment of the students knowledge in class. But more complex electronically collected assessment need not be marked automatically, it can be used just to collect the answers for human marking. However, before setting assessment the teacher needs to decide what scheme is appropriate and what is being assessed.

e-Assessment can have advantages for immersion and interactivity, social interactions. The results can look like computer and role playing games.

There are some examples of research on interactive, some beter than others, such as Literature Review of E-assessment (Futurelabs) and "Effective Practice with e-Assessment" (JSC).

Geoff showed an approach where the interaction is separated from the assessment. In this model the question invokes the interactive component. As an example the question is asked in a web page in a learning system, such as Moodle, this then invokes an interactive application provided via a web browser plugin and when the plugin is finished the student is returned to the web page where they can enter their answer.

What I found confusing was that this did not seem to be "interactive assessment", in that there was no interaction between the system asking the question and the application the student uses to research the answer. The computer presents a tradition text question, launches the interactive plugin for the student to interact with and then asks them for a traditional answer. There no assessment in the interactive environment. Geoff pointed out that this makes it a lot easier to create and is more flexible, but it took me some minutes to work out that this could be considered a legitimate "interactive" assessment.

Geoff pointed out the advantages of this approach: the academic can use pre-prepared modules and ask different questions about it for different levels of students. What also appears an advantage is that this only a small step beyond the computer based tutorials I prepare for ANU courses and is essentially the same as the system I used for a commercial training course.

Interactive Tutorial Example

With the ANU tutorials, a web page is prepared which looks much like a traditional set of notes for a tutorial/lab. However, the student is provided with a hypertext link which takes them to an online tool which they use to carry out part of the work. They copy some parameters from the tutorial sheet into the tool and copy some results back as their answer. An example is questions one to three of the metadata tutorial for "IT in E-Commerce" (COMP3410/COMP6341). In this the student is first asked to hand code some metadata, then use an online tool and compare the results and reflect on the differences. It would not have occurred to me to describe this approach as "interactive".

Interactive Assessment Example

With "Writing for the Web", a one day course prepared for a local government agency, there are a series of modules consisting of a set of slides used by the presenter live in the classroom, with accompanying notes for the students to read, followed by an exercise for them to do. The slides, notes and exercises are implemented using Moodle. The assignment module of Moodle was used to implement the exercises, but with no expectation that the results the students, just as a way for the student to type in the answers.

As an example in "Search the web for useful words", the student is asked to conduct search using two web tools and compare the results. They type their answers into the Moodle assignment web form (only visible to students enrolled in the course).

Interactive Assessment for Public Service Course

The Electronic Document Management module I am preparing for Systems Approach to the Management of Government Information was going to use the same style of online exercises as the writing fore the web course. However, I had assumed that I would need to provide a paper based test as well. But Professor Crisp's seminar seems to show that the interactive assessment could be used at least for part of the assessment. What would also make this easier would be purpose built flexible learning rooms for this form of teaching.

Postgraduate Online Professional Education for ICT

The ACS provides online courses in IT management using a Moodle based system for its Computer Professional Education Program. ACS also provide a Diploma of Information Technology for budding IT professionals in the Asia-Pacific region. e-Assessment could be of value for these.

More Interactive Assessment

However, to me having a web page launch a web application and then ask the student to copy result from it into a web form is not really "interactive assessment". Geoff commented that the assessment can be built into the interactive application, but this then reduces the flexibility. However, a level of interactive could be created by the assessment system passing parameters to the application and the application passing back some results at the end. This could use Web Services. It could be as simple as the assessment system adding some parameters to the end of the URL used to invoke the application. Results could be returned using XML encoded data, as is done for elelctronic tax returns, or even just a web page with the results included with Microformats. This would need some work, as my one attempt at including microformats in Moodle, the Moodle web editor modified the content breaking the Microformat.

Next Gen Not Wired

Geoff ended the seminar by cautioning that "Next Gen" students will not necessary benefit from, or want to use, social networking tools for education, even thought they use them socially. So educators should not assume the students will want to do everything via a computer, mobile phone and iPod.

See Also
  • Centre for Learning and Professional Development's moodle system.
  • Books on e-Learning
  • "The e-Assessment Handbook" by Geoffrey Crisp, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007 (available from Amazon.Com):
    Assessing learning in an online environment is being used by teachers and institutions at an increasing rate. Learners are demanding a more flexible approach to assessment activities just as they have done with learning. This demand will increase as online practice becomes embedded into all schools, further and higher educational courses and corporate training programs. As students are engaging with content in an online environment, they will also need to be assessed using the same tools that are used for the learning experience. This book provides practical guidance to various aspects of online assessment including:
    • types of assessment
    • choosing the right software
    • examples of e-assessment over a wide-variety of disciplines
    • making e-assessment interactive

    Table Of Contents Preface
    Section 1 How does assessment affect learning?
    1. Overview
    • Why do we assess?
    • Relationship between learning and assessment
    • Assessment for learning
    • Assessment and grading

    2. Guidelines for assessment practices
    - Professional bodies publishing guidelines on assessment
    - Assessment models
    - e-Assessment practices and their relationship to learning
    3. Types of e-Assessment items
    - types of e-assessment
    4. Cosequences of using e-assessment
    - Risks involved in using e-assessment
    - How is e-assessment currently being used?
    - What are the limitations of e-assessments?
    5. Choosing the right e-assessment software
    - choosing an appropriate assessment format
    - how do you want to administer your e-assessments?
    - what do you want to administer your e-assessments?
    - what type of questions do you want to ask?
    - choices in e-assessment software
    - other types in online assessment software
    - adaptive assessment software

    Section 3 What does e-assessment look like?
    6. e-assessment examples by discipline
    - General sources of e-assessment questions
    - Accounting, Commerce and Economics
    - Arts and Humanities
    - Biological and Health Sciences
    - Chemical Sciences
    - Earth and Environmental Sciences
    - Physics and Engineering
    - Mathematics

    Section 4. What are the practical issues when doing e-assessment
    7. Item and Test Bank use
    - constructing Ttem and Test Banks
    - using Item and Test Banks
    - non-adaptive test delivery methods
    - adaptive test delivery methods
    8. Grading and marking Items from the Test Bank
    - general grading and marking issues
    - negative and confidence level marking of objective items
    - marking selective response items
    9. Validity and reliability
    - overview of validity and reliability
    - classical test theory
    - Item response theory
    - Rasch modelling
    - estimating reliability
    - evaluation of test banks
    10. Standards, specifications and guidelines
    - assessment standards
    - national standards
    - professional association standards and guidelines
    - identifying standards
    - content standards, specifications and guidelines
    - assessment content metadata
    - interoperability
    11. Security issues
    - authentication of appropriate access
    - secure assessment environments and software
    - standards and guidelines
    - what to do when things go wrong
    12. Accessibility issues
    - statutory requirements for accessibility
    - good practice guidelines
    - testing accessibility
    - improving accessibility
    - assistive technologies
    Section 5 How Do I Make e-Assessment Interactive
    13. Assessing discussion groups and collaborative tasks
    - communicating and collaborating online
    - overview
    - examples of software for e-collaboration
    - design principles
    - collaborative problem solving and group work
    - online discussion groups
    14. Interactive assessment and Java applets
    - learning designs
    - simulations
    - Java applets
    15. Assessing role playing and games
    - characteristics of online role-plays
    - senario-based
    - game-based
    Section 6 What about the future?
    16. The future of e-assessment
    - current perceptions of where e-assessment is heading
    - drivers for change
    - what will it be like in the future

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 7 - Notes?

In Part 6 I looked at Moodle in more detail as an example of a CMS. But one of the practical realities of a course is that you have to tell the students what the course is about. The usual method for doing this would be to provide them a set of printed notes (commonly known as a "brick").

Usually the notes for courses are in the form of some introductory text, printed versions of the Powerpoint slides and some readings. But produing this material for printing can be remarkably difficult. While it is possible to print handouts from Microsoft Powerpoint, there does not seem to be any efficient and easy way to incorporate this with a word processing document. The same seems to apply with the OpenOffice word processor and slide program.

You can insert a whole slide presentation as an object into a word processing document , but then you just see an image of the first slide (or in MS Word one selected slide). If you want all slides to appear in the WP document, you appear to need to insert each slide, one by one.

A better option may be not to. While compound documents are feasible, something always seems to go wrong at the last minute, when the final version is due at the printer, but someone wants to change something on one slide and then the formatting of the whole document goes haywire.

A better approach might be to accept the limitations of the software (and our ability to handle complex arrangements of information) and simply arrange the document as a sequence of pages from different software packages. Usually this would be a word processing document with the introductory text, followed by the slides and then possible a web page with some references. This could be simply done by manually printing each document from the appropriate program, or using some sort of automation and desk top publishing.

But first two other potions should be considered:

  1. Don't use printed notes: Use an online course management system
  2. Course Content Genrator: Use specialist software for course notes.


According to the Microsoft documentation, you should be able to link to each Powerpoint slide from within the word processing document. See: "Insert a linked object or embedded object from a PowerPoint presentation". You would have to do this once for each and every slide, but when done any changes to the slides can be automatically be reflected in the document with "Update linked objects".

Note that you need to use the "linked" option, otherwise you will be creating lots of "embedded" copies of the Powerpoint slides.

As far as I can tell OpenOffice allows similar linked objects, but not selecting a specific slide (you always see the first slide).


An option is to not have any printed notes at all. For the course I ran for local government staff, all the notes were online. All that was provided on paper was a one page timetable for the course. The students were able to look at the notes on the screen in the classroom and on the web (using a password) when they got back to the office. I used the Moodle Course Management System, but others, such as Web CT could be used.


USQ's "ICE" system is specifically designed to prepare content for courses. This allows the slides to be created inside the word processing document, without the need for Powerpoint. But that requires redoing all the slides for an existing course. ANU is working on more general purpose systems based on ICE.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Using Moodle live in the classroom

This week I used Moodle for a one day course on "Writing for the Web" with 24 participants in a training room in Australia. It was only after the event that I realized that this may not be the usual way such online course management systems are used and others may benefit from a description of how I did it.


This course was prepared for presentation in a one day in-person workshop. However, it was intended the content could also be adapted for online self paced delivery later. Therefore the Moodle system was used. In addition I needed a web based authoring tool for the students to use for web authoring exercises. While I had planned to use Google Aps for this, it turned out to be easier to use the web editor built into Moodle. This turned out to be useful for use in the classroom. Moodle was used to supplement person to person interaction.

Having been asked to deliver training for local government staff I had to see what content I had available and how it could be delivered. Previously I had run a week long course for 24 museum staff from around the Pacific in Samoa, in 2005.

The course is divided into four sections, each with introductory material, exercises and references. As the participants would not necessarily have access to locally installed software, the emphasis was on the use of tools available via the web.

I adapted material I had prepared for:
The format for the course came from the course in Samoa.


First of all I took the description of what the client had asked for in the course and what materials I had to hand and pasted these into a topic outline of a new Moodle course. I then created each of the four sections of the course, starting with a title. Under each title I then added a paragraph summary and bullet point outline.

Under the outline of each topic I then added a link to an exercise using Moodle's "assignment" resource requiring submission of a text document prepared with the Moodle editor. These were not intended to be assessed, but Moodle system was very useful for me to monitor progress, by seeing how many students had submitted the assignment.

Then I added a set of student notes and set of slides. The notes and slides are edited versions of those I have previously presented. The notes and slides files are actually the same web document, using the Slidy format. I used some web server instructions to tweak the Slidy format so that by default the students would see the detailed notes when they opened the document, not the usual slide format.

With the assignment and notes done, I then added links to some relevant web based resources. Some of these are documents for the student to read. Others were web based tools to be used.

The Classroom

The classroom was arranged with two rows of desks in a "U" shape. Inside the U was a desk for the presenter and a video projector for the class to see presentations on. Each two students shared a desktop PC and undertook exercises together. In Samoa the students each had a computer of their own, but tended to end up working in groups, with useful mutual support, so one PC per two or three people seems to work well.

The format of each section of the course was that I would present the slides suing the projection screen. At the same time the students were encouraged to follow the notes on their PC. They were welcome to read ahead if they got bored. After some questions they were introduced the exercise, to be done in pairs. The students used the Moodle editor to prepare their responses, along with web based tools and documents in multiple windows. I monitored how many students had completed the exercise and answered queries. When it appeared most were finished we had discussion.

Wireless MouseThe presenter desk was equipped with a standard keyboard and mouse. To this I added a USB wireless mouse. The mouse was particularly useful as I could hold it in my hand while standing up and use the mouse buttons and scroll wheel to move through a presentation. There are specialist wireless presenter control units, but the wireless mouse is cheap, readily available and easy to work.

The Results

Moodle proved to be reliable and response in the classroom environment. The Moodle system was running on a server remote (several hundred kilometers) from the classroom and worked well. There was one database error during the initial startup, but the students didn't notice.

Enrolling students in the Moodle system turned out to be the most difficult part of the process. Rather than use bulk registration I had each student register individually using a secret key for registration. The students logged into their usual workplace account on their corporate computer system in order to be able to receive the message confirming their identity. The problem was than when they then entered the Moodle system it was difficult to find the link needed to enroll in the course.

Using the Moodle system to obtain course material and enter an assignment did not prove difficult for the students (who were all experienced computer users). The students did have difficulty keeping the course open in one browser window and other material in another. The students needed a practice exercise to avoid loosing what they had typed.

What I would do differently

The entire Moodle course content turned out to be a remarkably small 24kbytes. It would have been feasible to have all the slides and notes on the Moodle system as well. It may also have been useful to run a Moodle server on one of the PCs in the classroom, in case of communications problems.

It would seem quite feasible to create a portable classroom system from one laptop running Moodle and communicating with WiFi to low cost web terminals. The student terminals need only a minimal operating system and web browser.

This approach to teaching would seem to have potential for longer and more formal university courses, combining the benefits of computer based and live teaching.

What also could prove useful would be more web based tools specific to the subject topic. As an example tools which would give feedback as to the quality of writing for the web would be useful.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Creating coordinated web, PDF and presentation content with ICE

ICE: The Integrated Content EnvironmentThe Integrated Content Environment (ICE) provides a way to create large complex document, particularly learning content for web based systems, print and for live presentations. It is free open source software which works with Microsoft Word and word processors (and others which use the OpenDocument format).

The courseware author writes one document using a template supplied with ICE and the ICE software then generates versions of the document for the Web (HTML), Learning Management Systems (IMS package), Printed documents (PDF), and slide presentations.

The ICE web site is generated using the software and shows the type of documents generated. As an example the "About ICE" page has buttons for the PDF and presentation versions.

The templates and ICE software run on the user's PC. The system can also save a copy of the document to a remote repository. This allows very large and complex documents to be created in pieces. Different people can work on parts, with the system keeping track of it all.

ICE is intended for heavy duty university research and education. However, there is no reason why it can't be used by one person preparing a short vocational course, an article or writing a book, provided they are prepared to spend time learning to work it.

The software can be downloaded for free. There are versions of the ICE software for Microsoft Windows and for Macintosh OS X, using Microsoft Word or Open Office.Org word processors.

In addition you need the Subversion version control system, which is also available free (but will not run on Microsoft Windows). This brings up the major problem with the ICE system: it is corporate software designed for an organisation with IT support staff to look after it. It is not intended for one lone author with a computer and a good idea. Installing the software is very complex and should be left to an expert, unless you have a lot of patience.

Assuming your IT expert managed to install the software (or you can follow the technical guide), there is a user guide to help you use the software. The author creates word processing documents using supplied templates. The templates help the ICE software then convert the documents to web pages, slides and PDF documents.

ICE has been written by University of Southern Queensland (USQ) for their educational content, but shows a lot of potential for other use. Preparing major reports for government agencies and private organisations would seem a prime application. What tends to happen is that an organisation will spend moths or years preparing a large report and then have problems in the last few hours in the mad scramble to get it ready for launch. I have had the experience of having to have a defense report online as soon as the Minister finished speaking in Parliament.

Usually the full report is provided as PDF, then there is a web summary, media release and slide show for the launch. All these have to have last minute changes incorporated. ICE's use of the Subversion version control system would allow each person to do their bit and then check it into the repository (with a record of who changed what and when). ICE could then generate the package of materials, with the full report in PDF, web version and presentation.

Rather than just a web summary, ICE could generate the full text of the report in accessible web format. This would overcome the problem that only a handful of people ever actually read the reports created. It is too hard to download hundreds of pages of PDF and then find the bit you want. Most people read what someone else wrote about the report, not the actual document. Automatically breaking the report into chapters, each with an index at the top, would make the report far more readable.

In several cases of I have taken reports in PDF and created an easy to use web version. My version tends to rate better with search engines than the original, because it uses accessible web design. Even people from the organisation which created the official report will refer people to my version, as it is easier to use.

ICE might make coordinated, well managed accessible web based reports easier to generate. But this assumes an organization has the discipline to accept the systematic process the software imposes. It also requires the organisation to accept easy to read, accessibly formatted documents. In many cases organizations seem to prefer to produce reports which look pretty, even if they are harder to read.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Trying Amazon.Com

e-Learning by Design By William Horton (Book Cover)After detailing how works, someone asked me what it was like as a bookstore: Are the prices good? Do the books take a long time to arrive? I had to admit I had never bought anything (just taken commissions). I thought I should try Amazon, so ordered a copy of William Horton's e-Learning by Design.

At the local ACT Library had I found "Designing Web Based Training" by William Horton (2000). This is a very useful book on
how to set up online courses. But it is a bit dated and does not include the recent development with standards for web based courseware. If you are using a package such as Moodle, you need to worry less about the web design of the course as that is largely set by the package.

The same author had the
more recent "e-Learning by Design" (July 2006), so I ordered a copy via Amazon. As well as be useful for creating a course it would allow me to test the Amazon ordering process.

The book was offered for $AU77.95 by bookstores in Australia. Amazon charged $US39.50. At the current exchange rate, even allowing for shipping (
$US11.98), this is a total of $AU65.52, which is 16% less than the Australian bookstore. I bought the book via my own Amazon store, so I will get a commission on the sale, reducing the price by another 6%.

I ordered the book last Friday morning and Amazon sent me a message shortly after to say the book had been shipped and was expected to arrive 9 March. The book actually arrived on the following Thursday morning, taking less than a week. This was using the lowest cost, slowest method of shipping. It is a very impressive result and I can now confidently say of Amazon that the prices are good and the books do not take a long time to arrive.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

ICT Professional Developemt

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society Professional Development meeting in Melbourne.

We are discussing:
One interesting aspect is the way structured assessable online discussion is used as part of the CPEP. This takes place using a web based discussion forum in Moodle. Other experiments have been less successful, such as having the students contribute to a wiki of terminology.

Another issue is that traditional scholarly research material is a bit dry and dull for the average ICT professional. Also there is a lot of readable material available online, but course designers and students need to learn to be selective.

Any thoughts?

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Monday, February 05, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 6 - More on Moodle

In Part 5 I looked at Moodle as an example of a CMS. Some of the issues of pedagogy for an online course are covered in Doherty, C. (2005). Understanding trouble in paradise: Intuitive natives and
screaming aliens
. A paper presented to the OLT 2005 Conference, QUT, Brisbane, 71-80.

Heres is more detail on Moodle as an application. I mentioned that Moodle should be usable on small screen and smart phones without many changes . I was able to get it work okay on Opera web browser in small screen mode (this emulates a PDA type device), but on with the Openwave SDK Mobile hone emulator. The web pages displayed on the mobile phone, but each column of text was squashed to fit on the small screen and so was unreadable.

The Moodle team need to install an alternate CSS style sheet for mobile devices, to tell the web browser to use just one column (this is what the Opera browser does for its small screen mode).

Leaving that to one side, a good way to see if the advocates believe what they are saying is to see if they use their own tools. So I tried the Moodle Features Demo Course. The is a Moodle course to show off the features of Moodle.

The course first presents you with a typical three column screen. The screen is a bit too busy for my tastes, but that may be because the designer is trying to show off all the features of Moodle in one place, or perhaps because this the page the student will keep coming back to. I found a box offering to enroll me, so I clicked on it and was then presented with a "Topic outline", equivalent to about one A4 page of text (which is not too big).

What I found disappointing was that the course gets immediately into the details of Site, User and Course management. The stuff about the philosophy has been left behind and there doesn't;seem to be anything about how or why to prepare a course.

Interestingly there were 975 people enrolled in the course, 14 of whom had used it in the last 24 hours and four of who were in Canberra (including me). I noticed that participants had Blog entries to introduce themselves, so I created one. The Blog function uses a web based editor, much the same as ones used for other Blogs. This worked fine, even on my slow (64 kbps) wireless link.

While providing a Blog and user profile is useful in getting the students to get to know each other, there is also a danger they will say too much. Participants in courses need to keep in mind that they cannot entirely trust their fellow students and should not reveal too much.

The demo course has a "news" forum. This had nothing in it, but would be typically used for course announcements. There are also "Learning forums" for group discussions . The forums can have RSS feeds, making it easier for the students to keep up with developments. In the past I have found such on-line forums a bit overwhelming. Moodle has options such as allowing each student only one discussion topic, to stem the flood.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

eXe eLearning tool from New Zealand

While a course management system systems like Moodle may help deliver online learning, you still have to create the content. New Zealand is helping with a free open source tool called eXe:
The eXe project is developing a freely available authoring application to assist teachers and academics in the publishing of web content without the need to become proficient in HTML or XML markup. eXe can export content as self-contained web pages or as SCORM 1.2 or IMS Content Packages.

This project is funded by a grant from the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand and is led by the Auckland University of Technology and Tairawhiti Polytechnic.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Online Education for Management

On Tuesday I gave a talk in Sydney on "Online Education and Training Technologies" to the Australian Institute of Management (NSW and ACT). They were interested in the way the ACS is using eLearning for its Computer Professional Program and uses podcasting.

AIM provides management training for organisations and individuals. They have training rooms, a library and bookstore in North Sydney.
On-line technologies, such as course management systems (CMS), webcasting, and podcasting have great potential for e-learning. May of the products needed are available as free Open Source software. However, e-learning skills are needed to use these tools and create learning content for them. This presentation discusses some of the technologies and issues using the Australian Computer Society as an example.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 5 - On-line Courseware

In Part 4 I discussed if e-records as part of decision making in eGovernment and eBusiness. The program of courses entitled "System Approach to Management of Government Information" are now being offered, so I tought I should look at tidying up my content to get ready.

One option I would like to try is using a course management system (CMS). Not because the students will be studying on-line remotely, they will be on the campus at live sessions, but because it might be a useful way to make sure the material is well structured.

The Moodle product looks like a good option; it is Australian developed, free Open Source, and people keep mentioning it to me. The ACS use it for their new Computer Professional Educational Program and appears to be going well (thankfully as I am in charge of Professional Development at the ACS as of 1 January 2007).

The Moodle people claim it is based on "sound pedagogical principles", specifically "social constructionist pedagogy". Which they say involves: Constructivism, Constructionism, Social Constructivism, Connected and Separate.

Constructivism says you have to integrate what you are learning into what you already know. Constructionism says you learn better if you have to do something with the knowledge. For example I am writing this as I read about Moodle and so I am learning by having to write about it. Social Constructivism is about a group assembling ideas. As an example when people respond to what I have written and suggest changes. Connected and Separate is about understand the person's other point of view versus being "right": people will point out spelling errors in what I wrote (Separate) and others will suggest better ways to word it (Connected).

I am not sure how widely accepted these concepts are (it is all new to me), but it seems these are really two ideas: Learning through doing and working together.

Most computer based learning systems seem to be designed to support an isolated individual learning "facts". This would be Separate non-Constructivism in Moodles' language.

With that out of the way, lets look at Moodle, the software. It is released under a GNU General Public License, so it can be freely used and modified (free as in beer and speech). It is written in PHP and requires an SQL database to hold the content.

There are roles defined for admin, course creators, teachers , non-editing teachers (ie: adjuncts and tutors) and students. Moodle uses much the same software and philosophy as Open Journal Systems for e-publishing. There the roles are administrators, editors, reviewers and readers.

CMS systems are mostly about administering a course, not creating learning content. The CMS is used to keep track of the students, learning materials and activities (such as assignments). They are not about creating the actual materials the students read. This is much the same as e-publishing systems don't help you write a document, just publish it.

The current release of Moodle was 1.7, but Version 1.8 is just out (January 2007). This is supposed to have improved web accessibility features. They are specifically aiming for compliance with Italian Legislation on Accessibility. I am not exactly sure what that legislation covers, but it is likely to be much the same as Australian requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act and involve use of the W3C WAG, as used worldwide.

The Moodle developers are also aiming to implement XHTML Strict (after some debate). Use of XHTML Strict will help with accessibility and make for very clean and efficient web pages. It should also make it possible to use them on hand held devices, such as my proposed learning PC for developing nations and for different languages.

There is a Wiki with extensive documentation about using Moodle. Each Moodle course created has a course homepage, which is the place the students first come to. The home page has a typical Wiki style with blocks of mostly text laid out in columns.

The course can be formed of sections, usually in an order which the students work their way through (each week for example). Moodle has its own web based editor, including a "Clean Word HTML button" to remove extranious code from HTML which has been generated by Microsoft Word.

A course consists of essentially of resources and activities. A resource will typically be a web page with some content on it, a link to some content web based content somewhere else. At this point you realize the CMS doesn't write the course for you: the actual content you are teaching has to be somewhere. It might be on web pages, in PDF documents, or Powerpoint slides.

The content might be in an IMS content package. This is a standard format for learning content which is also supported by other CMS systems such as Web CT. An IMS Content Package is a Zipped directory of XML files, much like the OpenXML and Open Office word processing formats.

Exactly how you create a package, (with Moodle?) or how standardized they are between different CMS systems I am not yet clear on. But it appears to work as the government funded Australian Flexible Learning Framework has dozens of IMS content packaged learning objects in its Flexible Learning Toolboxes. These can be previewed online.

There are a bewildering array of standards underlying these systems, most of which the user never has to know about. As an example IMS uses a different metadata format to describe its learning objects to the IEEE Standard for Learning Object Metadata IEEE Std 1484.12.1-2002 (which I get a mention in, as I was on the balloting group). So IMS provide a set of Guidelines for Using the IMS LRM to IEEE LOM 1.0 Transform
to turn IMS metedata into IEEE metadata using XSLT transformations.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

System Approach to Management of Government Information

Having grumbled for several years about the poor way organizations create and manage electronic documents, I have decided it is time to do something about it. In the first half of 2007 the ANU will be offering a program of short courses on a "System Approach to Management of Government Information":
Record keeping and data management are essential requirements needed to support efficient and accountable performance of business and government. The Australian National University, in step with leading international trend, is establishing a new program that addresses aspects of records management and preservation of archives in a systems approach.
The program was designed in consultation with the National Archives of Australia.

This includes my own modules on:

* Information Architecture for E-Documents, and
* Electronic Document Management

These are intended for middle to upper level executives in public service agencies and companies. They are a less technical version of my lectures for IT students on e-document management and web design.

The presentation format is based on the one I used for the International Council of Museums/UNESCO workshop on IT in 2005.

ps: Of course some may argue the electronic brochure for the program exhibits the faults I am claiming the course will fix. Perhaps that will be an exercise for the class. ;-)

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Did the Australian National Audit Office Recommend E-Records Training?

I had an anonymous comment from someone in a government agency on my post "How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 1 - Why?":
You say in the first paragraph, 'The ANAO recommended training in recordkeeping.' And, it seems that you have been asked to create new courses based on this recommendation. Since none of the recommendations in the Report refer to training specifically, would you be able to post a comment explaining what where the ANAO made this recommendation. The [agency name deleted] has a policy of trying to comply with all recommendations, hence our interest.
The Audit report didn't actually say Archives should provide "training", it said "further practical guidance":
22. To assist entities in meeting their recordkeeping responsibilities, the ANAO considers that Archives should, in consultation with relevant entities, set minimum recordkeeping standards and requirements and develop further practical guidance. Archives should also coordinate, and periodically publish, details of the legislation, policies, standards, and guidance that impact on entities recordkeeping responsibilities. ...

3.7 The ANAO also considers that Archives should coordinate, and periodically publish, details of the range of legislation, policies, standards, advice and guidance that impacts on the recordkeeping responsibilities of individual entities. This task would require ongoing liaison with those entities that periodically issue, in the context of their particular responsibilities, such material. The coordination of existing material may also offer opportunities to identify any duplication or overlap that warrant its rationalisation. ...

3.49 To assist entities to improve their recordkeeping guidance, the ANAO considered that Archives should supplement its existing range of guidance, with more practical guidance. Such guidance could usefully address issues relating to the handling and management of email, documents in shared folders and information in electronic systems, as well as the use of scanning in an electronic recordkeeping environment. The guidance may also assist entities to:
  • determine for a particular business activity the information that should be created and received, and then determine the information that needs to be maintained as a record of the business activity in entities’ recordkeeping systems; and
  • how the record of a business activity is best managed in the context of entities’ recordkeeping responsibilities.
But from having chaired an interdepartmental committee which previously wrote such guidance, I think few are going to read it, unless you rub their faces in it, by sitting them down and telling them about it. Thus the need for training courses.

The report did say government agencies (called entities in the report) should provide training:
5.42 To assist with the implementation of a recordkeeping framework it is important for an entity to provide appropriate training to record users. This should include a combination of formal training and awareness raising activities that alerts and reminds staff of their recordkeeping responsibilities.Recordkeeping training should address the management of both paper and electronic records, IT security awareness, and assessing and assigning appropriate security classifications to sensitive information.
But it would seem difficult and wasteful for each agency to prepare and provide its own training program on what is essentially a standardized government wide function.

The courses need not be face to face, for example senior executives might like a few slides on their Blackberry they could read during the dull bits in meetings.

As an incentive to have them complete the course, the Public Service Commission could suggest each agency publish the number of staff who had completed the course. The Audit Office could then use that information to decide which agencies to audit and in what detail, on the assumption that those agencies with untrained staff were at higher risk. This would also make it easier to prosecute senior executives when there was unlawful destruction or falsification of records in their agency.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 3 - What does ANU offer?

Following on from Part 2 - What else is out there?, I had a quick look to see if any ANU courses had content on electronic records/archives management. Apart from my own lectures I couldn't find any.

Some courses which have relevant content and might be used in a Graduate Certificate (made up of three to four courses) or a Graduate Diploma (made up of six to eight courses) were:
  1. COMP1130 Data Structures and Algorithms I
  2. COMP1710 Tools for New Media & the Web
  3. COMP2410 Networked Information Systems
  4. COMP3410 Information Technology in Electronic Commerce
  5. COMP3420 Advanced Databases and Data Mining
  6. COMP3760 Project Work in Information Systems
  7. COMP6442 Software Construction for eScience
  8. SRES2015 Introduction to Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems
  9. INFS1001 Foundations of Electronic Commerce and Information Systems
  10. INFS2024 Information Systems Analysis
  11. INFS3024 Information Systems Management
  12. INFS7003 Databases and Information Systems
  13. INFS7006 Information Systems And Communication Technologies
  14. INFS7007 Information Systems Analysis and Modelling
  15. INFS8004 Information Systems Management in Organisations
  16. INFS8205 Strategic Information Systems
For the purposes of short in-service training these courses would be each divided into 2 or 3 "modules", which could be undertaken individually.

Added to this would need to be new modules specifically on the problem area.

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How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 2 - What else is out there?

Following on from Part 1 - Why?, I had a quick look around to see what courses there were on e-arching and records management. Several people also make useful suggestions.

What I found was that Monash University seemed to be most active in this area, along with the TAFEs and some US content. What this tells me is that there is some university material for records management professionals and a lot of vocational material for business people. There is US material orientation to public service records management. But there wasn't anything I could find aimed at Australian government needs nor for senior executives.

Monash: MIS5906 Advanced Topics in Electronic Recordkeeping and Archiving ( 6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL) Postgraduate (IT)
Synopsis: This unit is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the role of electronic recordkeeping and archiving in contemporary organisations and society, and exposure to the latest thinking, best practice and research initiatives. Emphasis will be placed on exploring key issues, challenges, and trends relating to the effective management of records and archives in electronic, networked environments. Students will be equipped with understandings, knowledge, strategies, and skills, which will enable them to develop and implement effective solutions that meet these challenges, and also plan for the future.

Assessment: Publishable paper: 40% Class presentation: 20% Supervised assessment: 40%

Contact Hours: 3 contact hours per week

Prerequisites: Must have completed Part A of Master of Information Systems
IMS5033 Electronic document management and recordkeeping systems ( 6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL) Postgraduate (IT)
Synopsis: This unit reconceptualises document management activities so that modern technologies can be better used to implement electronic recordkeeping solutions. The emphasis is upon designing, building, and using document management systems. Existing physical models for document management and systems are compared and contrasted with logical models and future architectures. Research into workplace applications and leading edge implementation of recordkeeping strategies for document management will be covered and shape the course.

Assessment: Assignments: 50% + Formal Supervised Assessment: 50%

Contact Hours: 3 hours per week
OLI TAFE " BSB30401 Certificate III in Business (Recordkeeping)"
This qualification allows students to work in a wide range of Recordkeeping activities within business sections in an organisation. It includes medium to higher-level key business skills required by organisations who are responding to rapidly changing business environments.
ATPL: "BSB01 Business Services Training Package" V4 (Volume 3):
Volume 3 contains units of competency for: - Record Keeping

Certificate III

BSBRKG301A Control records
BSBRKG302A Undertake disposal
BSBRKG303A Retrieve information from records
BSBRKG304A Maintain business records

Certificate IV

BSBRKG401A Review the status of a record
BSBRKG402A Provide information from and about records
BSBRKG403A Set up a business or records system for a small office
BSBEBUS406A Monitor and maintain records in an online environment


BSBRKG501A Determine business or records system specifications
BSBRKG502A Manage and monitor business or records systems
BSBRKG503A Develop and maintain a classification scheme
BSBRKG504A Develop terminology for activities and records
BSBRKG505A Document or reconstruct a business or records system

Advanced Diploma

BSBRKG601A Define recordkeeping framework
BSBRKG602A Develop recordkeeping policy
BSBRKG603A Prepare a functional analysis for an organisation
BSBRKG604A Determine security and access rules and procedures
BSBRKG605A Determine records requirements to document a function
BSBRKG606A Design a records retention and disposal schedule
BSBRKG607A Document and monitor the record-creating context
BSBRKG608A Plan management of records over time
Utexas: 2003 LIS 389C.14 Introduction to Electronic and Digital Records
The management, preservation, and use of electronic records and other digital objects with enduring value are all as yet problems with only partial solutions. There are two reasons for this: the supporting technologies are changing constantly and change is accelerating; and creators and users of these records (if not the records’ potential managers and preservers) are themselves caught up in a culture of immediacy that makes the problems with electronic records invisible until some legal entanglement brings them into sharp focus. Yet as governments and other human institutions have depended upon technologies of memory to assure their longevity in the past, it is a safe bet that they will continue to do so in the future. For that reason these problems must and will be solved by those who are charged with the custody and preservation of such records, at least in a way that will be good enough to achieve the ends of the institutions in question.

School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, INLS 165 ­ Electronic Records Management, [Last Updated: 2006-04-13, 20:30]
COURSE DESCRIPTION The management and preservation of electronic records is essential for maintaining institutional accountability; protecting the rights of citizens, employees and customers; supporting the efficient operation of contemporary organizations; perpetuating valuable forms of social memory; and helping individuals to integrate aspects of the past into their sense of identity.

Current electronic recordkeeping is in a state of relative neglect. At their most basic level, electronic records problems are related to proper configuration and management of computer components (hardware and software). The good news is that actual and potential solutions to the technological issues abound. The bad news is that the behavioral, organizational, institutional and professional underpinnings are generally not yet in place to implement the technological solutions. This places a profound set of challenges and opportunities in the hands of SILS students about to enter the workforce.

In this course, we will begin by consider the messy recordkeeping environment in which we currently live. We will then gradually build up a set of concepts, tools and strategies that information professionals can use to help shape more appropriate, valuable and sustainable recordkeeping systems.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 1 - Why?

In October 2006 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) released a report on recordkeeping in government agencies. This found problems, particularly with electronic records, as had two previous reports. The ANAO recommended training in recordkeeping. As I give lectures in electronic document management at the Australian National University (ANU), I have been asked to help create new courses for agencies.

Also of relevance is work by the Australian Public Service Commission and the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) obtaining sufficient skilled staff for the Australian Public Service. Cadetships and apprentice schemes to train new public servants could incorporate the electronic document management material. Those for IT professionals could include more technical content.

This the first of a series of notes intended to document the process. Please note that these are not an official record, nor do they represent a commitment by any organization to conduct a course. Comments, corrections and contributions would be welcome.

The Content

As the ANAO report noted, there is no shortage of material to work from, with Australian government agencies issuing legislation, standards, policies and guidance on recordkeeping.

There are guidelines issued by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) for records handling. NAA also helped develop the Australian and International standards in this field. NAA's also distributed open source software for e-archiving called "Xena" and an electronic arching system.

Previously, as a public servant, I chaired the committee which prepared "Electronic Document Management: Guidelines for Australian Government Agencies". This is used in the ANU course "Information Technology in Electronic Commerce" COMP3410/COMP634. There is also relevant material on web site design in "Networked Information Systems" (COMP2410 / COMP6340). However, these courses are intended for IT specialists who develop software for records management. More suited may be material prepared for a five day workshop for staff from museums of the Pacific Islands Region.

The Technology

The intention is to run the courses as conventional small classroom events. However, it seems reasonable to prepare the courses so they could be easily adapted for on-line distance education, if needed. This could use course preparation systems such as the Integrated Content Environment (ICE), an on-line course management system, such as Moodle and Podcasting. Also an open access license, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs, can be used. This will allow the content creators to prepare and distribute their material for comment, while retaining commercial rights to use it in a course.

On-line delivery may be provided in unconventional ways, such as to Blackberry and other smartphones/PDAs issued to senior executives. This could deliver on-demand training in very small units, as required.

The Process

The intention is to create short in-service courses for use by staff of government agencies and others who need knowledge of e-records management. However, the material may latter be used for a full university course. It therefore seemed prudent to first look at the formal guidance and requirements for a course. This proved to be much easier than expected. A web search of "ANU Course Proposal" found "The ANU Official Course and Program Proposals Site". This contains links to detailed procedures for new courses, forms to be used and examples.

The ANU course web site is publicly available. the procedures page has an overview of the process is provided, complete with flowcharts. Whoever prepared it clearly has a sense of humor; including a reproduction of Munch's "The Scream". But at this stage I only need to worry about the first step: "First draft of the proposal: Course proponent proposes and designs draft for a new course in consultation with the relevant academic area according to that academic area'’s internal procedures. This is usually done by a lecturer at a school/departmental level. ...'.

Some books:

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